REVIEW: Having a laugh at Vice Versa

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Sophia Nomvete as Dexter, with Geoffrey Lumb as Valentin, left, and Nicholas Day as Philoproximus

Chipping Campden student Molly Gisbourne reviews Vice Versa, on at the RSC’s Swan Theatre until 9th September

The opening scene of Vice Versa will make you blush. And be warned, the racy theme continues throughout.

The stripped-down plot for this Roman romp looks like this: Dexter is the General’s unwilling servant, she wishes to be with her rightful master and mistress, the loved-up Valentin and Voluptua. Therefore, with a smart mind and optimistic nature, she does everything in her power to conduct the dim-witted characters alongside her to try to get the General to release her and Voluptua. It is basically a lie about identical twins which snowballs into a two-hour comedic experience and finishes with a smile. But to save some time you can just refer to the subtitle, ‘The Decline and Fall of General Braggadocio at the Hands of His Canny Servant Dexter and Terence the Monkey’, to explain everything.

Even though the plot is simplistic, I didn’t feel as though anything was missing from the play. This is due to the incredibly talented actors who, somehow, manage to keep a straight face. A special mention is due to Felix Hayes, for his perfectly mastered facial expressions, as well as his ability to make himself look stupid for our enjoyment.

My favourite character was Dexter, played by Sophia Nomvete. It was empowering to see a young, black woman being the smartest character on stage. She was extremely energetic, looked as though she was genuinely having fun, and has an amazing voice too. This contributed to the songs, the happy-go-lucky sort of songs that one would expect from a pantomime. With the audience participation included too – but not the ‘he’s behind you’ kind, more the ‘join in singing!’ sort. The light-hearted, slapstick comedy would have easily entertained an audience of children however, there were enough innuendos to keep the grown-up audience laughing.

Wordplay was successfully performed in the groceries scene. You can imagine the puns already, I’m sure. In my opinion, this scene deserved a standing ovation for making me laugh so much and for the actors’ obvious delight in delivering it. A huge congratulations to the prop department, because there was a lot of props involved, 244 I’m told.

On a more serious note, this play does manage to subtly tackle modern day issues. The best of which being Donald Trump, or should I call him General Braggadocio? The audience can see this narcissistic character shout ‘make Rome great again!’ before falling to his knees, humiliated; a dream.

The (albeit childish) singing, smiles, bright costumes, and witty facial expressions were very enjoyable to watch. A huge congratulations to the team and cast. Catch it until 9th September if you feel a bit of childish humour is required as a relief from the gore-fest of Titus Andronicus playing next door.